Danziger Trial Verdict Convicts All Five Defendants August 9, 2011
By: Kristen Swiger
Family members of victims silently cried as Judge Englehardt read the verdict outloud to a full courtroom. It took four days for the jury to find all five defendants guilty on 23 out of 25 counts, with the two exceptions being premeditated murder charges.
Crucial evidence against the officers included bullet shell casings that were traced back to guns, taped conversations, and even a video that captured what happened on the Danziger Bridge just daya after Katrina.
Both sides fought a difficult battle, but legal analyst Chick Foret says the defense just came up with too many excuses.
“Certainly the defense tried to make Katrina an unindicted co-conspirator. I think the training, or lack of training, of the New Orleans Police Department was interjected into this case, and we had an issue of race relations in this case,” he said.
As the courtroom slowly emptied, family members reflected on the lives of Ronald Madsion and James Brissette, who were both shot and killed on the bridge.
Ronald’s brother, Remell, said, “I think there’s a degree of closure. It’s never going to bring back my brother, but to see that this is going to help the entire city of New Orleans.”
Defense attorneys say that the verdict was completely unexpected, but lead prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein credited her team and the victims’ family support for the victory.
“They’ve worked with us and they’ve patiently waited for today, and I’m in awe of them and I want to express my gratitutde to them,” she said.
Sgt. Arthur Kaufman is still out on bond, but the rest of the defendants are still being held in federal custody until sentencing in December.
Saints Finish First Full Week of Training Camp August 8, 2011
By: Kristen Swiger
It’s the week that Saints fans have been anticipating ever since the news of the NFL lockout threatened the future of football.
The first full week of Saints training camp offered proof that this season is in full swing, and players are back to the drawing board. Veteran player Lance Moore coulnd’t be happier about his new long-term contract and finally being able to work up a sweat.
“It feels great, just to have to sit for six or seven days and just watch, being so anxious to want to get out there, to finally get out there felt great and it’s great to be back with the guys,” he said.
Quarterback Drew Brees said that every practice focuses on how to pick up on the little things that the other side of the ball is doing, a concept that will be crucial for a victory.
“You play the game to compete. This is our outlet,you know, and you come on the field, and you’re able to compete and obviously we’re working toward a common goal,” he said.
For some new faces, like Running Back Darren Sproles, the season gives an opportunity for them to break out of their shells and make their own name in Saints football. Head Coach Sean Payton, however, made it clear that every position on his team will be earned.
“I think that process has to happen on merit to have that credibility in the locker room, and that’s something we value a lot and we pay attention to,” he said.
That shouldn’t be a problem for this team, with both rookies and veterans anxious to get the ball rolling.
Brees said, “We’ve got some exciting players, and I’ve got the best seat in the house.”
By: Kristen Swiger
Family, friends and neighbors comforted one another as they watched Kenner police investigate one of the most tragic cases the city has seen in a long time.
Ronald Peters came home from work yesterday evening to find his three young children dead, laying side by side in an upstairs bedroom, and all suffering from gunshot wounds. Their mother, 29-year old Nadia Braxton, was laying across them.
The three little girls ranged from 12-years to six-months old. For some, the news of the tragedy made them reflect on their own families. “My wife and I have a seven-month old, and we heard about the news yesterday. We live not too far from here, and it really hit close to home,” said Tomas Pazo.
Tomas Pazo and his son came to pay their respects to the children and added to the already growing monument that now sits outside the home.
“He felt strongly because he cares about his little brother so much that he just wanted to come over here and lay the teddy down for the kids,” he said.
Neighbors say that the family mostly kept to themselves and were not seen often. The case, however, still remains under investigation as to what happened in those early afternoon hours.
An autopsy is currently being done to determine if this case could be a possible murder-suicide, but Chief Carraway doesn’t want to rule anything out until he gets a chance to talk to friends and family members.
By: Kristen Swiger
The Superdome is one of New Orleans’s most iconic landmarks, home of the Saints and a savior to many victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Now, it’s getting a much deserved facelift, and Superdome General Manager Alan Freeman oversees all of it. “We’ve got a lot more room for people to move around, we’ve added additional restrooms, additional concession stands, just much more customer friendly than it used to be,” he said.
Last weekend, the Superdome got ready to host the Essence Festival, but that didnt slow down the progress to renovate the Dome in order to get ready for football season. The walkways are bigger annd roomier for fans to get through, bathrooms are doubled in size and seats have been upgraded to a classic black and gold upholstery.
“We certainly hope the fans are going to appreciate what has been done, we’re sure they will, and we’re excited to hear their feedback,” said Freeman.
A special addition has also been unveiled for those lucky enough to score VIP passes into the Saints clubhouse. Complete with white leather furniture, stainless steel tables and plasma screen tv’s, the clubhouse can easily be considered one of the Superdome’s more elegant features.
Overall, the project cost about $320 million dollars to upgrade and renovate the building.
“Danziger 7” Trial Kicks Off in New Orleans July 5, 2011
By: Kristen Swiger
It was six years ago that a shooting on the Danziger Bridge left 17-year old James Brissette and 40-year old Ronald Madison dead. The trial for the five officers charged in the shooting began on Monday.
The first witness to the stand was Susan Bartholomew, who was crossing the bridge with her family to get food and supplies when they were suddnely showered with bullets. The testimony turned emotional as she recounted her 17-year old daughter covering her body to protect her.
Bartholomew also lost her right arm that day, and when asked her reaction to the sudden gunfire, she replied, “The police just kept shooting, and I just kept feeling myself being hit. I prayed. I called on the Lord, I didn’t know what else to do.”
Six defendants have also plead guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and are cooperating as witnesses as part of a plea deal.
Lt. Michael Lohman, who turned over false information to the FBI and participated in a plan to plant a clean gun under the bridge, was questioned by defense attorneys and later cross-examined. As a government witness, most of the testimony went against the defendants.
Lead prosecuter Bobbi Bernstein summed up her opening statement by saying, “The officers cut loose with shotguns and assault rifles without even a token effort to identify themselves as police.”
However, the defense quickly answered back with Defendant Robert Faulcon’s attorney Paul Flemming saying, “These five guys had one thing in common. They stayed, They did the best they could without adequate food, leadership, supplies and support.”
Two Abused and Starved Horses Finally Get Rescued June 30, 2011
By: Kristen Swiger
Two horses have free reign in a fenced-in pasture, clean water to drink and plenty of food to eat. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case just a couple of weeks ago.
The stallion and mare were rescued from an old junkyard, tied to a post with only 20 feet of rope to walk around and were starving. 47-year old Oris Lee, Sr. was charged with three counts of animal cruelty.
Allegedly, Lee was in jail on his third domestic-abuse charge within a week of neighbors complaining about the horses, and when the police told him to do something about them, he refused and action was taken.
Pamela George, a part-time boat captain, takes it upon herself to rescue animals in need in her spare time. When she got the call to come look at the horses, she was shocked to see the protruding ribs and missing front teeth.
“They were so emaciated and so depleted, that I said we have to get these horses out of here, or they’re going to die,” she said.
The Lafouche Parish sheriff’s office and humane society helped Pamela get the horses under her care. While she says that she’s not rich by any means, she does have the resources to help.
“If I dont’t get the donations, then I just do it by myself,” she said.
Once the horses are nursed back to health, the search will be on for an adopting family.